Icon Story

Arthur Brisbane

Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936) – photo credit Library of Congress

A picture is worth a thousand words.
~ Unknown

There is no credible certainty regarding the origin of those words above. We do know the overall concept was loosely suggested in the nineteenth century via writings penned like this, “The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book.”
(Ivan S. Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (1862))

Greater clarity and more succinct wording were actually provided in a presentation by newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane to the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club in 1911. A segment of his editorial counsel in that presentation to this group read as follows …
“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”
That’s more than close enough for our purposes.

So, what is the picture we are painting here? Let’s begin with your own words …

I want to recommend making the “Lessons” page more visible to students. The Lessons page is where students actually read and learn the content for their course. Students should spend at least 80% of their time in the “Lessons” page. Yet to access these Lessons, students have to hunt around for them.

And to quote another idea in the same vein …

Any chance we can get the most used icon on the toolbar (students, assessments – like the email icon)?

There were some other email messages and suggestions regarding shortcuts to navigation for both teachers and students. The development team researched to find out where both groups were most likely to travel. It turned out that the primary destinations for teachers were not identical as those for students. Teachers most often visited their workload (ASSESSMENTS) and the STUDENTS roster. Students also visited their own workload (ASSESSMENTS) and the LESSONS. Both groups already had instant access to EMAIL, HOME, and the MAIN MENU. The job for this week was to create ready access to those Educator sections targetged above. It began with a gathering of icons:

icons large

PLEASE NOTE: The icons above are reversed, black vs. white, from those on your actual toolbar. The MAIN MENU icon has not changed. It’s the universally accepted icon for main menus everywhere. This icon is now joined by ASSESSMENTS for both teachers and students. In addition … students will see LESSONS on the toolbar, and teachers will see STUDENTS.

Views were obviously developed for laptop/desktop screens for teachers:


… as well as students:


During our testing with the FLVS QA team, it was suggested that the same icons needed likewise presentation on mobile devices. Why not add them to the toolbar on tablets and phones? After a return trip to the drawing board, these icons were also added to the current mobile toolbar for both teachers (blue) and students (green):


These new toolbars have been tested for a couple of weeks. They are being released to all users at this time. We trust that these navigation enhancements will be well received. Please let us know what you think.

Customer service is not a department; it’s everyone’s job.
~ Anonymous


Taking A Look

Know what your customers want most and what your company does best.
Focus on where those two meet.
~ Kevin Stirtz

binocularsWe’ve received quite a few inquiries about enhancements that have appeared on the pages of this blog over the past couple of years. While it is not complete, the list and links below should get anyone started on an exploration of the roads we’ve traveled together in an effort to better customize your Educator learning management system.

There has been a lot of work over long hours through many lines of code. It has been a journey that we have enjoyed and look forward to enjoying with you even more.

During the time marked by the enhancements below, there were also other major innovations. Working together with the VSA Team, we managed to dramatically bring our integration even closer to real-time. Educator itself sports a whole new look with interactive tables. The drive toward mobile has shaped your new toolbar. We have taken steps toward prescriptive delivery, and we are working to assimilate personalized learning. Dynamic pace charts are just around the corner.

The list of categories below is very loose at best. We have created four basic groups:

  • Communication – facilitating the creation or sharing of information
  • Management – keeping things organized or highlighted
  • Experience – making life generally simpler or neater for users
  • Evaluation – having to do with grading or tracking

Practically everything fits into two or more categories. We just wanted some way to help narrow your/our searches.

Supervisor communications Added school of record
Grade Communications Improved password usage
Submission communication File management improvements
Student Reset controls Segment notifications
Usage Log upgrade Batch Exemption
Date/Time stamp added VSA integration speed
Supervisor Email Automation Updated and sortable tables
Email Autoreply Bulk exemption hot buttons
Supervisor email customization Sorting Enhancements
Email Filtering Increased TA power
Email course filters Expanded table sorting
Feedback Snippets Student Notifications
Percent Complete Essay Flags
Collaboration Finder Suspension Manager functions
Notification upgrades Assessment signatures
Student reminders School of record data
Snippet variables Forcing upgrade
Tweaking diary Exemptions Update
Email addressing Global/Edit Announcements
Forcing Dates
USER EXPERIENCE Advanced student tracking
Email simplification Segment Focus
Workload filtering Student folder express
Sliding navigation Voice Activity counts
New custom filtering Snippet tagging
Honors Notice Expanded TA roles
Course Arranger Student attendance
Create Grading Workflow Usage log export
Email Icons Last assignment warning
Batch file upload
View Student Workload EVALUATION
Assignments Modernization Better facilitate exam resets
Exam Unlock Reset verifications
Multiple downloads Added percentages
Information positioning Last submission
Expanded Downloads Add Exemption documentation
Teacher Notes Advanced Tracking
Student uploads Next Ungraded Essay
Folder Enhancements Resubmitted notations
Teacher Notes Results on the fly
Sort column control Expanded exam data
Responsive design Reset Notifications
Exam formats Exam outcomes
Navigation shortcuts Exam reset rules
Default course entry
Customized notifications
Whiteboard upgrade

Those links above should help refresh your memory or hopefully trigger even newer ways to make Educator better. This brief look over our shoulder has given our team even more energy to move forward. There are some really exciting things on our plates right now. We genuinely look forward to serving them to you. Thanks for dropping by and taking a look.

Happiness … consists in giving, and in serving others.
~ Henry Drummond

Then and Now

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.
~ Bertrand Russell

Hanger273We pause to sit back from time to time and soak up our surroundings. We recollect the roads traveled and recall how we have arrived where we are. It’s a good time to take a look at how we have done things; it’s a moment to assess how we continue to do things; we can even architect how we might do things better tomorrow.

We have taken time in recent days to ask ourselves many questions. We have managed to hang some of those question marks on a few of our Educator hooks, and we’re here today to share some of those answers. We’re done sitting back, so keep feeding us your ideas. Just take a look below. We take absolutely no credit for generating all these ideas. We only take credit for our listening carefully then and our doing something about it now. Let’s talk a look at … then and now.


Actions: Students Page


I have an idea regarding the new “actions” drop-down menu in a student’s grade report. Can we also have it on the “students” page? Many times I open a grade report just so I can email a student or view the usage log. It would save time to have the menu in both places.

Consider some time has now been saved! You now have a more direct path to where you need to go! It’s all about saving steps:


Sorting: Student Folders


Can you create columns in the student folders, such as the assignment association or the last modified date, so we can sort the files? Many times, students attach picture files of their work that they took on their phone. I always find myself spending a few minutes in a student’s folder, when I’m looking for the work to support their test answers. It would help if I could find the last file they uploaded or the name of the assignment with which they associated the file.

Let’s make all those little labels and pieces of data useful! The metadata has now been programmed into separate columns. Each column can be sorted as you’ve grown to expect and enjoy:


Percentages: Essay Questions


I love how when I fat finger a grade on an assignment, I get the little warning. Can you have the same thing when we fat finger an essay response grade? Like if I accidentally type 34 instead of 4 … I get a warning?

Some ideas just read and lead right into others. This one scores as a double-winner (as shown below):
#1 – Whenever you score an essay, you’ll see the percentage of possible points earned.
#2 – If that “fat finger” credits more points than those allowed, there will be no entry.


 Let us know what you think. Keep those ideas flying. Add one. Comment on another. Help us make a difference. And thanks in advance.

Now and then, someone is able to look at an empty space, conclude it would be a great place to start a revolution, and bravely go forward.
~ Henry Rollins

Hotkeys, Hotkeys, HOTKEYS!

That’s right folks, we’ve been listening to your requests again. We know you love the “Next essay” button on exams. Some of you found the old one in the way, so we moved it. Others like it where it was because it was closer to the action. The first bit of awesomeness we’re releasing this week isn’t something you’ll see but something that will make grading essay questions faster.  This week we’ve added a custom set of hot keys also know as keyboard shortcuts to navigate to the next essay question. From now on instead of using the “Next essay” button you can simply hit “ALT + N” at the same time to go to the next ungraded essay question while in an exam or in a worksheet.

Notice I said worksheet there?  Yeah, we’ve added the Assessment information box to worksheets in addition to exams.

From our Facebook group:

I love how on exams you can skip down to the first ungraded essay. Can you add that same feature to worksheets?

Going forward we’ll do a better job at keeping feature parity between exams and worksheets, so bear with us while we catch up a bit.

Our parting gift this week is a teaser of things to come.

Enhancements to the Course Roster.

Screen shot of the course roster showing new "Actions" menu.


Enhancements to the Student folders.

Screen shot of the student folders after enhancement.


Enhancements to the Toolbar.

Screen shot of two new buttons on the Toolbar.


I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.
~ Ernest Hemingway

For those curious of the title, it is a reference to The Lego Movie scene where Benny builds his dream spaceship, sold separately of course.

Better Late?

Better late than never.
~ Titus Livius, Livy’s History of Rome

There are times when days just seem to get lost. Yes, this entry is late. Some members of our team are working an FETC booth at the Orlando Convention Center, and we are still here. The WeatherSTEM division of our company is getting an enthusiastic response on the convention floor. We have managed to take live data and integrate it into classroom learning opportunities. It’s an exciting next step in our innovation roadmap.


Many teachers like you are excited about engaging their students with live data. The Florida Giveaway has people filling out an application just to get involved. Maybe your home county should join us as well? Give it some thought. Now it’s time to get back to Educator enhancements … in your own words.


When a gradebook is exported, is there a way to show all assignments that have been submitted and not yet graded? I work with the gradebook all of the time. Would it be possible to add a feature that allows me to know which assignments have been submitted and are not yet graded through the gradebook?

For those of you who like exporting and importing the gradebook, the developers have added the code to help accomplish this goal. Happy?



Can we get a warning on last assignment submitted dates? Maybe a date of last assignment submitted that turns red after 7 days? Or a two-color variable set by teacher? Not sure what the time period should be, but I like the color warning of sorts.

This one struck developers here as an interesting idea. The fastest route to get you where you want to get just makes efficiency sense. Here is the new color-coding scheme for last assignment submitted data.


  • Red = more than 7 days
  • Yellow = between 4 and 7 days
  • Green = less than 4 days

A quick glance at that Last Submitted column should tell you something worth knowing now. What do you think?


Our final suggestion for this week is a long one.

Would it be possible to allow teachers to “modify” lessons by putting their own comments in that students see when they open the assessment in the gradebook? I see we can currently do this, but it refreshes each evening so it is not a working feature for us. I would like to use this feature to help with the directions or give reminders (example: “Remember that I’m looking for 3 paragraphs on this one!” or “Call me at XXXX to complete this discussion” or even a fun sticker to encourage them . . .)
I know we can do a forcing slide after they submit, but as a teacher, I would love to have them see my tips and reminders as they are submitting. I get lots of resubmissions on the same mistakes and would love to be preemptive. Students would love it, too!!

We got the message! Teachers can now add reminders to students for all assessments. These reminders are separate from the assessment instructions and are not shared between course shells of the same course ID.

To create/edit them, go to the appropriate assessment screen and click on the ACTIONS button.
Choose Edit Assessment Reminder.


Craft your helpful words to students in the Assessment Reminder window, Remember to select SAVE.


Reminders will appear to students on the assessment screen in a blue information box below the assessment title.


Your assignment tips and hints will remain with the assignment for all students until you edit or delete it. We hope this helps. Please let us know. Now it’s back to FETC!

There is an immeasurable distance between late and too late.
~ Og Mandino


Glance Back

All the holiday trimmings have finally been put away for another year. Likely there are remnants hiding and waiting to be discovered at some inconvenient time. Looking back over last month’s dialogues, a few of you have previously noticed how the new whiteboard just snuck in right before holiday. We never did say much about it. We just left it under the holiday decor. Others mentioned how they never even knew it was there! We thought perhaps it was time to stop … and take a closer look back at that little surprise left behind at the winter solstice.


You better stop, look around.
Here it comes, here it comes.
~ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, 19th Nervous Breakdown

The old whiteboard has moved on. Did you notice? A newer whiteboard has taken its place. If you have not paid it a visit, take 5 minutes and just give it a look. Play with it a while. There are the usual drawing tools on the right side and some handy new ones along the top:


There are two tools that really demand your attention, the Equation Editor and the Wolfram|Alpha. The editor is self-explanatory. It will create images on the “graph paper” for you to use. A really fascinating journey can begin with the Wolfram|Alpha. Exploring here might keep you engrossed for hours, especially if you teach any STEM subjects. This would really satisfy anyone with a curiosity about any body of knowledge. Go ahead and try it! Try this:

  • Open the Whiteboard
  • Select the WOLFRAM|ALPHA tool
  • Type/Copy into the text box … pennies to cover 2 square miles

Or how about this?

  • Type/Copy into the text box … 10 almond M&M’s

Isn’t that something?

What else? You can even take a SNAPSHOT of your sheet:


Lots of the usual goodies, but did you notice Bobafett? You can upload the usual cast of characters (images) to this Whiteboard … even Word documents, Powerpoint shows, and PDF files! Just use the upload button and add files to your list of assets:


Give the new Whiteboard a whirl and let us know what you think.
It really is sometimes worthwhile to make the trip back, isn’t it?


Get back, get back.
Get back to where you once belonged.
~ John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Start It Up

One thing is sure. We have to do something.
We have to do the best we know how at the moment . . . ;
If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.
~ Franklin Roosevelt


That’s exactly where this blog entry began … Momentum 2014. We heard you loud and clear! If you were paying attention, you heard it as well. We have never heard such a unified call to erase (or at least ease) a problem. We will get there, but first …


Several teachers have asked to be able to address an email message to one student. They did not want to navigate long rosters or check any boxes. They simply wanted to address an email to B. Johnson by typing the name. Here we go! Start typing any letters in the TO: box, and the qualifying names remain listed. The more you type, the narrower the selection becomes:

email one

Just click on the name for which you were searching, and it’s done!
PLEASE NOTE: You cannot select multiple names here. This only works for single student selection.

Now it’s time for the main event. What was the single greatest problem presented to us in October? Can you guess? It was students skipping over discussion-based assignments. More succinctly, the problem was not that they were skipping these assignments; that seemed inevitable. The challenge was to inform you when this happened. You had no way of knowing unless you went through the tedium of checking the gradebook. You had no way to know without looking … until now!

Your Educator development team has come up with a way for you to customize notifications to yourself when a student proceeds in your course without completing his/her DBA (or any other targeted assignment). Keeping within FLVS policy, we did not want to prevent the student from progressing through the course. We rather wanted to create a way for YOU TO KNOW that the student was “skipping” the DBA. Follow these steps, and you let us know how it works …


From the MAIN MENU go to NOTIFICATION SETTINGS and select Advanced notification settings.



On the GENERAL SETTINGS tab fill in your email address (any email you like) for notifications and your text address in email format. Hovering over the question mark will show some phone carrier sample addresses, or you can search this page. The system will use whatever email and text addresses you care to supply here.



Select the SPECIFIC ASSESSMENT EVENTS tab. If you have any RULES in place, this is where the course and rules will be listed. On this page you can edit or delete any previously created rules. To create a new rule just select the CREATE RULE button.



This will open the ASSESSMENT RULES window. This is the master control, the brain center, the power of the specific assessment notification engine.



From your course dropdown, just select the course for which you want to create a notice.
PLEASE NOTE: You will be creating a rule that applies to all students in this course.



This is the most difficult part of this whole operation. You are going to pick any assessment that YOU DO NOT WANT SUBMITTED before the “skipped” assignment is submitted. In the example below, we are targeting the 1.07 DBA as the assignment NOT to be skipped. We are going to select any assignment (trigger) in the red highlighted area as one that should only be submitted AFTER our DBA. In other words … whatever assignment is put here SHOULD be submitted only AFTER my DBA/target assignment is submitted.



In the step below we have already selected Assessment 2.0 Module Two Pretest as our trigger assessment. We are also selecting 01.07 Module One DBA as our Skipped Assessment. In simplest terms … we are asking the system to notify us if Assessment 2.0 is submitted BEFORE Assessment 01.07 is submitted. Make sense? Once again, we could have selected any assessment as the trigger. We could even select one two modules away. It all depends on us and how we choose to handle notifications.



After creating our rule, we need to select our preferred notification (1) method for this particular rule. Then we can create a SUBJECT line (2) for the email or text message. As always, you must click SAVE (3) to enter your rule into the system.


We will be reminded that we need to complete the email address and phone/text information on the general tab. Failure to do this will send all notifications into the cyberspace void.

The new rule is added to your assessment rules page where it can be edited or deleted as you wish.


Once you go through this process a couple of times, it will not be as tedious as it sounds. You can now be notified whenever a student “skips” those DBA assignments. It will take you some trial and error to figure out where you want your triggers to be, but you’ll get there. We hope this helps. Please let us know.


Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.
~ Henri Kaiser

Tune Into 2015

As you might have predicted, here is wishing a Happy New Year to all of you from the Educator development team. The topic of much writing at this time of year centers on new resolutions, new directions, and new hope. Your Educator team has never really been that predictable with their continual surprises (almost always for the better), and this year will be no different.

Certain bodies… become luminous when heated. Their luminosity disappears after some time, but the capacity of becoming luminous afresh through heat is restored to them by the action of a spark …
~ Marie Curie

We all know how long Educator has been around and how long it has been a learning fixture in the largest online secondary school in the world. We also know how much Educator has grown in recent years. Your suggestions and ideas remain the spark that keeps the luminosity bright. We know that your schools are closed right now. We know that most of you are still on vacation. So why write today?

forest2015 Remembering the philosophical question/quote regarding trees falling in empty forests and the follow-up sound question, we decided the time was just too important, and we needed to share two pieces of information with anyone of you who might be listening.

Number One

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”
~ Oprah Winfrey

Get it right? It’s better said to get it even more right! Educator will certainly continue to grow this year. Our team is committed to doing more than we did last year to increase the teaching and learning efficiencies in our system. We customized a great deal for FLVS and its franchises in 2014. We cannot successfully continue this mission of ours without your continued support and suggestions. Little by little with ears and minds open, we are prepared to make tremendous progress in 2015. Everyone on our development team thanks you in advance for this coming year.

Number Two


Just come back to this page next Friday morning. Be here. Period. Tell your team members and supervisors to tune in as well. We have been listening carefully to your suggestions and have identified your pain points. It was the loudest cry at the Momentum Conference almost three months ago, and the developers have found a path through the woods, a light in the tunnel, certainly a sigh of some relief.

Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.
~ Robert Collier

In the meantime …

Welcome back! Keep the conversation alive. We promise to do all we can to make your 2015 better than expected. And we expect you to make us work even harder in our effort to earn your continued loyalty and support. It’s not in our plans or DNA to expect otherwise of ourselves.

We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.
~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Happy Solstice

It could be as early as December 20th, or it could be as late as December 23rd. The December Solstice is called the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. The sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, and the North Pole is tilted -23.5 degrees away from the sun. In 2014 that day will be December 21, and the exact moment will be at 6:03pm EST. The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year in this hemisphere. This might well mark the shortest blog entry of this year.


 A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it.
He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it.
We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.
~ Kenneth B. Elliott (Studebaker) or Leon Leonwood Bean (L.L. Bean) or Mahatma Gandhi (Indian leader)

No one is really sure whom to credit with that quote above. It hardly matters; it surely works for the Educator development team and reflects our sentiment here. It’s time now for the holidays. It’s time for the break away from the day in and day out; it’s time to play; it’s time to enjoy; it’s time to hold close. The developers wanted to leave you with a little gift. That old WHITEBOARD was replaced with a newer one. You’ll find it on your toolbar:


We’re working now on something you won’t want to miss! We’ll be working through these next two weeks (with small family breaks). We’ll be here when you get back in the New Year. Until then … have a Merry Holiday. We thank you for being here.

Education must begin with the solution of the student-teacher contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.
~ Paulo Freire


Baby Steps

Whilst we deliberate how to begin a thing, it grows too late to begin it.
~ Quintilian

Where to start is sometimes a problem. That first step is often the most difficult. The same is true in almost any novel, any sculpture, any musical composition, or any blog.


Let’s begin with simplicity …

Usage Log Export

The USAGE LOG has proven to be valuable for many of you, but there was an improvement to be made:

The issue is that there are no print menus in some of the new screens, specifically the screens for the usage logs and the action logs.

export usage

You will now be able to export a student’s USAGE LOG in a variety of formats. This might prove handy when you need to send information to support any dialogue with parents, students, or each other.

Selected Shading

Now that we’ve begun to roll, we received another logical suggestion recently. It’s worth the sharing and repairing:

Is there any way you could make the shading on correct answers (in exams) a little darker? I find it difficult to see, especially when on my tablet or laptop.

This is how selected answers have looked until now and how they will appear as you move forward:


Default Entry Point

And finally this week, it was pointed out to us via email:

Right now there is no place to set a default course for Teacher shells. It should be on the “Other Courses” page and/or the sign in page.

Good point! Some of you have many courses. It would be nice to be able to pick where you entered your school building every day, wouldn’t it?

Select OTHER COURSES from the toolbar menu:


If you DO NOT want the course currently entered to be your default point of entry, then uncheck the UNCHECK box. Next, enter the same course. Having re-entered the course, return to the OTHER COURSES link. You will notice the changed last column:


Select the course you would like to be your default point of entry. If you select none of these, then your point of entry will be your full course listing, and you will need to choose every time.

Well … we managed to begin again! Let us know your thoughts, and we will respond. It’s time now to dig out some decorations.

To begin, begin.
~ William Wordsworth